============================================================================ Delivered-To: •••@••.••• Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2000 14:14:31 -0700 To: •••@••.••• (undisclosed list) From: Tom Atlee <•••@••.•••> Subject: Expanded democracy as our "Escape from the Matrix" Dear friends, In the current issue of Whole Earth Review, Richard K. Moore <•••@••.•••> has a powerful article entitled "Escaping the Matrix" http://cyberjournal.org/cj/rkm/Whole_Earth_Review/Escaping_the_Matrix.shtml . I invite you to read the whole article but, because of its length (about 14 pages), I'm not including it here. It is readily available through the above link. Moore's article is powerfully clarifying. I am sure, like all clarifying articles, his vision is drastically oversimplified. This may cause you (as it did me) to resist some of its message, thinking of it as "conspiracy thinking" or "left-wing ranting". But I want to pause a moment to reflect on that. I'd like to share what is perhaps the most useful lesson I've learned from my study of holism: Every article, book, idea, person, culture, etc., has both gifts for us and limitations. There is no One Answer; there is always "more to it than that." Even the most valuable answers are only approximations -- good, honest efforts initiated from a single, broad perspective. It is up to us to proceed carefully -- to not throw the baby out with the bath water -- to find and honor the gifts, whatever's there that we can use to grow ourselves and help the world -- and to recognize the limitations, not so much as fatal flaws, but as the inevitable price of having any perspective at all. And so it is with Moore's remarkable article. There is a deep gift of truth in the picture he paints. Despite its many limitations and exceptions, there is a pattern here that we ignore at our peril -- the colonization of our lives by institutions and systems greedy for the concentration of wealth. We need to deal with that, and soon. Any serious reflection will make that clear: we will not be able to create a decent world if we ignore this factor. And yet other people have voiced this part of the truth before. So what's so special about Moore? In my view, what establishes Moore's ultimate legitimacy and contribution is the solution he urges on us: Evolving truly democratic processes and systems capable of harmonizing the views and interests of diverse citizens so they (we!) can co-create livable societies that benefit them all. Moore urges us to build bridges, not burn them; to connect with our fellow citizens, not defeat them. In this mission, he has my full alliance. A few books that offer tremendous insight in that effort are - Charles Johnston's NECESSARY WISDOM, one of my first and most powerful introductions to bridge-building between seeming polarities, grounded in a philosophy of co-creativity. - Mark Gerzon's A HOUSE DIVIDED, which describes "six belief sytems struggling for America's soul" and then describes dozens of people from each of those belief-system subcultures who are trying to reach out to their fellows from other subcultures. (His upcoming THE DEMOCRACY TOOLBOX, which I've seen in draft, will further advance our skills in bridge-building.) - Frances Moore Lappe and Paul Martin Du Bois' THE QUICKENING OF AMERICA, which chronicles an explosion of collaborative democracy in our midst, and offers "how-to" lessons learned in communities throughout America. Beyond these, I (not so humbly) believe that many of the leading edge democratic theories, forms and processes we need are explored and described on my website, particularly http://www.co-intelligence.org/CIPol_Index.html . It is through these innovations -- particularly citizen consensus councils http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-citizenCC.html -- that I met Richard Moore online. We'll soon be having face-to-face conversations with a number of other people interested in these issues. All that said, here's my own summary of Moore's article. If you find it at all interesting, do read his full article (linked above), and even some of his excellent references. They paint a compelling picture of what we need to do and why, and the challenges ahead. Peace to us all. Coheartedly, Tom _ _ _ _ Richard K. Moore's "Escaping the Matrix" and the Evolving Global Dynamics of Concentrated Wealth In "Escaping the Matrix" (Whole Earth Magazine #101, Summer 2000) Richard K. Moore writes about the movie The Matrix as the modern version of Plato's Cave or The Wizard of Oz metaphor: The world we think we're living in is not the world that really exists. Something profoundly different is going on -- in this case, the arrangement of world affairs for the more efficient concentration of wealth. The social, economic, political and moral realities we think we're living in are composed for us and wrapped around us by elite classes and institutions intimately involved in that wealth-concentrating project. They know how to make us support their work on their own behalf, at our expense. "From the time of Columbus to 1945," writes Moore, "world affairs were largely dominated by competition among Western nations seeking to stake out spheres of influence, control sea lanes, and exploit colonial empires." The PR spin on this (the Matrix-like story) was that Europeans were bringing civilization and righteousness to heathens and "underdeveloped nations". But, behind the scenes, there was an evolving, mutually beneficial marriage between the interests of the Western nations (represented by governments, large institutions, mass media and a well-manipulated citizenry), on the one hand, and the interests of capital (represented by wealthy elites and corporations), on the other. Moore notes that America's world dominance after World War II ("Pax Americana") shook the foundations of that marriage arrangement. Less competition among nation-based capitalists was needed. America took increasing responsibility for the world-wide interests of ALL capitalists through a) using dictators and "Western style democracies" (heavily influenced by wealthy elites) to keep raw materials flowing out of, and Western goods flowing into, Third World countries; b) using international financial systems and "foreign aid" to build the infrastructure and ensure the allegiance of local powerholders needed to support Western exploitation and c) using the US military and multi-national forces (through the UN and NATO) to "contain the spread of communism" and nip in the bud any threat to corporate interests. The Matrix-like story used to describe all this was that the U.S. was "the world's policeman" maintaining order in "the international community" and "coming to the assistance" of nations that were being "undermined by Soviet influence." For over twenty years this worked like a charm, largely thanks to the general prosperity of Western nations. "A rising tide," said the spin doctors, "lifts all boats." But in the sixties and seventies -- despite widespread prosperity -- anti-war (especially anti-Vietnam War) and civil rights movements "declared the reality of exploitation and suppression both at home and abroad," and the environmental movement was born. "These developments disturbed elite planners," writes Moore, quoting a remarkable 1975 "Report of the Trilateral Task Force on Governability of Democracies" -- particularly a section written by a still-influencial Harvard professor, Samuel P. Huntington, who said that democratic societies "cannot work" unless the citizenry is "passive." The "democratic surge of the 1960s," wrote Huntington, represented an "excess of democracy," which must be reduced if traditional government by "the private sector's 'Establishment'" was to be continued. Elite Western strategists began to conclude that Western national prosperity and nationalism were no longer so vital to their interests. These formerly vital ingredients apparently didn't preclude protests and they actually undermined international competitiveness. For example, a re-industrialized postwar Japan was becoming an important international competitor, thanks largely to its lower wages, and so Western capitalists were inclined toward lower wages in Western countries (e.g., in the form of an increasing "temp" labor force). In addition, Western governments were increasingly being used to regulate corporate operations and redistribute wealth. It was time to go truly international. Their two-pronged strategy was to weaken national governments on the one hand, while empowering transnational governing bodies that served elite interests, on the other. The first wave of this initiative was launched during the Reagan-Thatcher years: The stripping down of government services, regulations and public infrastructure -- and the power of unions -- and transfering the resultant wealth and advantage to corporations and wealthy elites. All this was legitimized by a Matrix-like story about "reducing taxes," "getting government off people's backs" and "liberalized free market economics." "Soon," says Moore, "British and American populations were beginning to appaud the destruction of the very democratic institutions that provided their only hope of participation in the political process." The fall of the Soviet bloc coincided with the proliferation of multinational corporations, so all stops were taken off the globalization of corporate power. The nineties saw the expansion of powerful free-trade treaties (NAFTA, WTO) "to remove all political controls over domestic and international trade and commerce" and the increasing use of IMF (International Monetary Fund) loans to compel non-Western debtor nations to reorganize themselves to the benefit of Western investors. If military intervention became necessary, it was justified as "humanitarian" to quell "ethnic conflicts" often stirred up by Western interests, or as part of the international "war on drugs." The Matrix story evolved in tandem with the evolving reality. To the extent domestic prosperity was no longer central to the elite vision, the "government by consensus" it made possible was replaced as well. "Activism and protests were to be expected" even in the best of times, but elite planners knew dissent would increase as the erosion of prosperity, the environment and community accompanied all-out corporate globalization. This required new forms of two tried-and-true social management tools: a semi-militarized police force and "divide-and-conquer." We see the new police strategies and equipment in Seattle, D.C. and the national political party conventions, as well as in the war-zone policing of inner cities. We see increasing police violation of rights, rapidly swelling prison populations (remember, American prisoners loose their citizenship rights forever, and are increasingly used as a cheap labor pool), and the propagandistic quality of many TV and movie police dramas. And we see what Moore calls "programmed factionalism," "the covert guiding of various social movements" -- especially fundamentalist religious movements. "The collective energy and dedication of 'true believers' makes them a potent political weapon that movement [and elite political] leaders can readily aim where needed." Elections cease to be about real-world issues of political and economic power and well-being, but about abortion, drugs, and prayer. The matrix story paints the competition among factions as the essence of democracy, whereas that competition becomes, in practice, a playground tussle distracting citizens from the ongoing centralization of wealth and power being carried out by both liberal and conservative leaders alike, whether Democrat or Republican, Labor or Tory. What is the way out of this predicament and its illusory Matrix-like reality? Moore suggests that we must realize that "left and right are enemies only in the matrix. In reality we are all in this together, and each of us has a contribuiton to make toward a better world." Contrary to the matrix myth, capitalism is not essential, nor is centralized state socialism its only alternative. "Free enterprise, private property, commerce, banking, international trade, economic specialization -- all of these had existed for millennia before capitalism. Capitalism claims credit for modern prosperity, but credit would be better given to developments in science and technology.... In fact, there are infinite alternatives to capitalism, and different societies can choose different systems, once they are free to do so." "In order for the movement to end elite rule and establish livable societies to succeed, it will need to evolve a democratic process, and to use that process to develop a program of consensus reform that harmonizes the interests of its constituencies. In order to be politically victorious, it will need to reach out to all segments of society and become a majority movement. By such means, the democratic process of the movement can become the democratic process of a newly empowered civil society. There is no adequate theory of democracy at present, although there is much to be learned from history and from theory. The movement will need to develop a democratic process as it goes along, and that objective must be pursued as diligently as victory itself." _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * Eugene, OR http://www.co-intelligence.org http://www.co-intelligence.org/CIPol_Index.html ============================================================================ Richard K Moore Wexford, Ireland Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance email: •••@••.••• CDR website & list archives: http://cyberjournal.org content-searchable archive: http://members.xoom.com/centrexnews/ featured article: http://cyberjournal.org/cj/rkm/Whole_Earth_Review/Escaping_the_Matrix.shtml A community will evolve only when the people control their means of communication. -- Frantz Fanon Permission for non-commercial republishing hereby granted - BUT include and observe all restrictions, copyrights, credits, and notices - including this one. ============================================================================ .